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From May 8th to May 19th, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Ghana with my fellow classmates, teachers, and LMU peers as a part of my course - African and Black Psychology. When I was first looking at which classes I should take for the Spring semester, I knew I had to fulfill some requirements for my psychology major and peace and justice studies minor. I stumbled upon this course, African and Black Psychology, and thought to myself - what is that and why have I never heard of it before? How was I a junior, with numerous psychology courses under my belt, yet the concept of any other form of psychology other than that which favors a Western, predominately White perspective was never something I had even heard about. Upon my acceptance into the course, I had no idea the extent of personal growth, undisclosed knowledge, and appreciation I would gain over the course of the Spring 2023 semester and travels to Ghana. 

The Way You See Things Depends On The Lens Through Which You Look

Throughout the semester, we discussed and developed various African concepts; however, we most frequently discussed the concept of ubuntu. At first, I understood this term solely by its definition: I am because we are. This concept was hard for me to grasp as many of us are accustomed to a Western, Eurocentric lens which uses Decartes’ understanding of personhood - what it means to be a human being - outlining that we are human beings because we think: I think, therefore I am. In our individualistic culture, we have been taught that all we need to do to be human is think. If we can think hard enough, we can make money, get ahead in life, and prioritize the one thing we truly care about - ourselves. However, this philosophy does not make us human beings in Ghana, it makes us barbaric. Ubuntu means that I am a human being because of other people and my relationships with them. This concept is seen through the exchange of the traditional African greeting of sawubona, meaning we see you. This exchange holds the acknowledgment that we see each other. We see all of one another’s thoughts, traumas, ancestors, and experiences, asking ourselves what we can do with this time we have been gifted together to support one another. 

To contrast these perspectives, let’s look at how we shop in the United States versus my experience at the Ghanaian art market in Accra. In the US, our lens has created an incredibly individualistic world where shopping is solely a transactional and monetary exchange. However, in Ghana, where individuals' perspectives are based on mutuality and community, shopping is about relationships and supporting one another. At the art markets in Accra, vendors didn’t see me as a consumer, but as a human being with a name, hometown, family, and story. We saw each other as helpful connections, educating one another on cultural traditions and swapping American shirts for Ghanaian hats. Seeing the world through an African perspective that emphasizes ubuntu completely alters how we interact with one another and our community. This view places responsibility on every member of society to engage with and support other human beings. If I attempted to maintain my Western lens while in Ghana, I would no longer have my personhood. Ubuntu means that we are human beings not because we can think, but because of other human beings;  therefore, we can’t be humans if we don’t engage in our communities and assist one another. Through this support we shape and sustain each other because we need one another. We embody ubuntu. 

There Is So Much You Do Not Know That You Do Not Know

I did not know that I would love fufu and banku. I did not know that I would return from this trip with lifelong friendships and connections. I did not know that my words made an immense, beneficial impact on those around me. I did not know the extent of the horrific atrocities committed at the dungeons in Cape Coast and Elmina. I did not know the extreme irony of “religious” and just men using Black bodies for their work, pleasure, and entertainment. I did not know I could still communicate with my great-grandmother and that she has been communicating with me. I did not know how much I needed to heal. I did not know how much we needed to heal together. I did not know this experience would change my life and perspective forever. 

My biggest takeaways from my experience in Ghana was the immense amount of knowledge, experience, and tradition that emulates throughout African spirituality, psychology, and culture that the Western world has deemed inferior. There is an insurmountable amount of ideas and concepts to learn regarding how to interact with one another and one’s community, use spirituality as a tool for healing, and understand experiences that are often ignored or labeled as insignificant and/or evil. The Western world has limited their minds and dehumanized people of African descent in pursuit of the lie of White superiority and Black inferiority. After taking this class and traveling to Ghana it has become that much more apparent that the truth is the Western world knows nothing in comparison to the immeasurable power of African tradition, healing, and community. 

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